These prophets can be so disruptive! Last week we heard how God
sent Ezekiel to the rebellious Israelites. Today it is Amos who is
stirring things up. He is another prophet of God who has upset a
ruler and the priests. It almost seems like that’s the job
description of a prophet: a disturber of the comfortable and the
Amos was a lay prophet of very ordinary circumstances; he was a
shepherd and a migrant worker. God called him to leave his home in
Judah and travel north to Israel. Jeroboam was the ruler at a time
when Israel was prosperous and powerful. The rich and influential
lived in splendor and ate sumptuously (3:12, 15). But they were
unconcerned about the poor and Amos accused them and their judges of
No wonder Amaziah, the high priest, wanted to get rid of him.
Amos didn’t associate with one of the guilds of mercenary prophets,
who claimed to speak for God and were paid. Rather, he led a very
ordinary life and when God called him Amos left all to respond to
I leave tomorrow to give a parish retreat across the country.
Let’s see: have I got my laptop, cell phone and cables for both?
Have I checked in online for my upcoming flight? Do I have a ride to
the airport? Will I have a pickup when I return home? Today’s gospel
pricks my conscience as Jesus sends the Twelve on mission and tells
them not to provide for what they would usually need for a trip.
"Nothing for the journey… no food, no sack, no money in their
belts." He does suggest a walking stick and sandals which they will
need, since they are on a road trip. He tells them, "not a second
tunic" – as I pack my suitcase and hope it’s under the 50 pounds I’m
allowed by the airline. Should I just skip over this passage as "not
applicable to my situation?" After all I’m not a first century
follower of Jesus. Things, I protest, were simpler back then. Many
readers have a similar reaction and tend to label today’s gospel as
"Not applicable to me."
The disciples would not carry much with them as they went out
with "authority over unclean spirits." They would be dependent on
God for their effectiveness, and courage. They would also be
dependent on the hospitality of those who heard and received them.
As preachers of the gospel they would experience a new community
formed by those who heard the Word of God and welcomed the ones who
brought it to them.
Each gospel narrates a different first miracle by Jesus. For
example, in John’s Gospel is the miracle at Cana, when he changed
water into wine. The first miracle in each gospel sets up how and
what the gospel will reveal about Jesus. The first miracle in Mark’s
is when Jesus drives out the devil in the Capernaum synagogue
(1:21-28). Mark’s Jesus will show himself to be more powerful than
the evils that confront him and oppress humans. At that time people
associated physical, psychological, and social problems as the work
of demons. Throughout Mark Jesus will perform healing after healing,
showing he has power over all manner of evils that afflict humans.
Jesus doesn’t spell out the Apostles’ ministry. Instead, he "gave
them authority over unclean spirits." That is, power over all
sicknesses and sin, the evil spirits that plagued the people.
The apostles might have felt intimidated and afraid to face the
forces they knew would resist them. On our own, any task of
discipleship might seem beyond our limited gifts, or capacity. But
Jesus doesn’t tell the disciples what and how to do what he did.
It’s not merely a matter of following orders. The Gospels aren’t
just instruction books for the disciples, like an operator’s manual
for a computer program. Instead, Jesus sends his apostles out with
his very own authority. With that power, the gift of the Holy
Spirit, they will know what to do and when and how to do it.
The first and the gospel readings show that you never know whom
God will call and what mission he will give them. Prophets seem to
pop up everywhere: at parish and city council meetings; rallies for
the poor; protests against unfair labor practices; at supermarkets
collecting signatures for low-income housing. Thousands have gone to
our southern border to protest the treatment of refugees and their
children. God has not stopped calling prophets, like Amos, from
among ordinary people. Maybe God is calling us to let go of some
part of our lives, to be free to proclaim a message, as Amos did, to
the powerful and the comfortable.
Why did Jesus send them out in pairs? Was it so they would have a
companion when they met resistance? When one was down, the other
could encourage them on. Jesus prepares them for the rejection they
will surely meet. So that they don’t give up when it happens, he
tells them to "shake the dust" from their feet, not lose heart and
move on. It’s good to have a companion to share and give support in
difficult moments as you try to live and preach the gospel. Since
they were in pairs, they would also preach by the example of their
partnership. They were not detached agents, but part of a community
of witnesses, two people devoted to and excited in their witness to
the risen Christ. We Christians are not solitaries, we are a
community of support, encouragement and companionship in our shared
role of witnessing to the risen Christ.
Jesus speaks to us modern Christians, called as the Twelve were,
to go out to preach the gospel. We travel with his authority. He
provides us with all we need to proclaim his word; for the authority
he gives is his very Spirit with us. We aren’t to be a self-enclosed
community and, despite any sense of inadequacy, we are sent out with
all that we need. We focus on the essentials and try not to be
encumbered on our mission by the extra baggage of fear, or a sense
It is not just the ordained who are given the missionary task of
going forth to preach. By our baptism all of us are called to be
prophets. We have been given the authority over evil spirits:
racism, poverty, addiction, religious intolerance, etc. We can be
assured that Jesus has given us sufficient authority to overcome
these evils. Shall we go out and draw from that authority we have?
for a link to this Sunday’s readings: